In June 1941, Richard was ordered to active duty in the US Army. After a period of training, he was sent to Europe. He entered Austria in April 1945. A patrol came upon the Mauthausen camp and Richard was appointed to take command of the camp. He organized those inmates who had survived in the camp until liberation in May 1945, and brought in two field hospitals. After 35 days in Mauthausen, he was transferred to a post in the Austrian Alps.
We gathered up about 700 bodies, which we had to bury. We had no identification of any kind, and we buried them in the old sports Platz, which was the recreational area for the SS, playing soccer and baseball, or whatever they played. The bodies were...there were no identification on any of these people, and no one could identify any of them because some of them were in terrible condition. So we buried them, in a mass grave, about 700. We put a cross up over each grave. Of course, they were buried without benefit of casket or anything because we had to get rid of those bodies. And from that time on, anyone who died in Mauthausen received a cross or a Star of David, with their names on it, and they were thoroughly and totally identified, but prior to that we couldn't do it. But I would guess that there was something like 1300 people died while we were there, and they were all identified properly so that all records maintained their nationality and their name.
What was the context of the Holocaust and World War II at the time of the events described here?
What other source materials might be helpful to provide more historical context for this eyewitness testimony? What aspects of the history might these other source materials help reveal?
How can personal testimonies and oral histories provide insights into the challenges Allied forces faced when encountering and documenting the evidence of atrocities?
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